The alleged gunman who attacked an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago fired more than 70 rounds with an AR-15-style gun that killed at least seven people, then evaded initial capture by dressing in disguise and blending into the fleeing crowd, police said Tuesday.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesperson Christopher Covelli told a news conference that the suspected shooter, who was arrested late Monday, used a high-powered rifle “similar to an AR-15” to spray bullets from atop a commercial building into a crowd that had gathered for a parade in Highland Park, Ill., a close-knit community on the shores of Lake Michigan that has long drawn the rich and sometimes famous.
More than 30 people were wounded in the attack, including one who died Tuesday, Covelli said.
Police allege that afterward, the suspect dropped the rifle and escaped, blending into the crowd as though he was an “innocent spectator,” dressing as a woman to conceal his facial tattoos. He walked to his mother’s house and borrowed her car, according to police.
Investigators who have interrogated the suspect and reviewed his social media posts have not determined a motive for the attack, according to police.
They have also not found any indication that the shooter targeted anyone by race, religion or other protected status.
Authorities have not filed criminal charges.
Earlier in the day, FBI agents peeked into trash cans and under picnic blankets as they searched for more evidence at the site where the assailant opened fire.
‘It’s commonplace now’
The shots at the parade were initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of panicked revellers fled in terror.
A day later, baby strollers, lawn chairs and other items left behind by panicked parade-goers remained inside a wide police perimeter. Outside the police tape, some residents drove up to collect blankets and chairs they had abandoned.
The July 4 shooting was just the latest to shatter the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become killing grounds in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to find cause to celebrate its founding and the bonds that still hold it together.
“It definitely hits a lot harder when it’s not only your hometown but it’s also right in front of you,” resident Ron Tuazon said as he and a friend returned to the parade route Monday evening to retrieve chairs, blankets and a child’s bike that he and his family abandoned when the shooting began.
“It’s commonplace now,” Tuazon said. “We don’t blink anymore. Until laws change, it’s going to be more of the same.”
A police officer pulled over Robert E. Crimo III about eight kilometres north of the shooting scene several hours after police released his photo and warned that he was likely armed and dangerous, Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said.
Authorities initially said Crimo, whose father once ran for mayor of Highland Park, was 22, but an FBI bulletin and Crimo’s social media said he was 21.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered American flags be flown at half-staff through Saturday as a “mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of gun violence perpetrated on our Independence Day.”
Some victims identified
The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points early in the day for the annual celebration.
Among them was Nicolas Toledo, who was visiting his family in Illinois from Mexico. He was shot and died at the scene, his granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Also killed was Jacki Sundheim, a lifelong congregant and “beloved” staff member at nearby North Shore Congregation Israel, which announced her death on its website.
Police have not released details about the victims. Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said the five people killed at the parade were adults, but didn’t have information on the sixth. Roberto Velasco, Mexico’s director for North American affairs, said on Twitter that two Mexicans were also wounded.
Dozens of fired bullets sent hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fleeing. They left a trail of abandoned items that showed everyday life suddenly, violently disrupted: a box of chocolate cookies spilled onto the grass; a child’s Chicago Cubs cap; baby strollers, some bearing American flags.
“There’s no safe place,” said Highland Park resident Barbara Harte, 73, who had stayed away from the parade fearing a mass shooting, but later ventured from her home.
NorthShore University Health Center received 26 patients after the attack. All but one had gunshot wounds, said Dr. Brigham Temple, medical director of emergency preparedness. Their ages ranged from eight to 85, and Temple estimated that four or five were children.
Since the start of the year, there have been 15 shootings where four or more people have been killed, including the Highland Park one, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killing database.
Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill said the gunman apparently fired from a rooftop where he was “very difficult to see.” He said the rifle was recovered at the scene. Police also found a ladder attached to the building.
Covelli said Crimo legally purchased the gun in Illinois within the past year. Officials said a second rifle was found in the car when the suspect was apprehended.
Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, posting on social media dozens videos and songs, some ominous and violent.
In one animated video since taken down by YouTube, Crimo raps about armies “walking in darkness” as a drawing appears of a man pointing a rifle, a body on the ground and another figure with hands up in the distance.